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Chris Christie Lambastes Anti-Muslim Bigots In The GOP

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes today about a speech that New Jersey Governor Chris Christe gave two weeks ago when he hosted a Ramadan dinner at the Governor’s Mansion

“In many publications around this country I’m now called an Islamist,” Christie told the crowd of New Jersey Muslims. “Ya know, listen, I’ve been called worse things — usually on the boardwalk on Seaside Heights. Y’all saw my reaction to that.”

It is an extraordinary video, in part because you don’t often hear Republicans calling out elements of their own party for being “bigots” against Muslims. The issue of Islamic extremism is wrought with potential political pitfalls, and yet here is a guy on the short-list for GOP vice-presidential nominees who is directly confronting the topic in the backyard of his own house.

“I’ll tell you that there is a gaze of intolerance that is going around our country that is disturbing to me,” Christie said. “This is something that as a political leader you can think you understand as an objective observer, but you don’t really understand until you become part of the story.”

He said that two of his actions have “drawn the ire” of some conservatives around the country. The first was the nomination of a Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim attorney, as a superior court judge. Conservative web sites have criticized the appointment, saying Mohammed has defended terrorists and will employ shariah law. But Christie called Mohammed a friend and said that those who create hysteria about his appointment because are “bigots.”

Christie went on to ask the Muslims in attendance to recommend members of their community for appointments, including judgeships.

Christie also noted that he has been called out for his relationship with Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who is often described online as a “Hamas-linked cleric.”

“The fact of the matter is that in all my interactions over the years with the imam, he has attempted to be a force for good in his community, in our state, with law enforcement, with those of us who have gotten to know and work with us over the years,” said Christie, who worked with the Muslim community as a U.S. Attorney in the aftermath of Sept. 11. “So I hope what you see is a consistent strain of conduct. I will judge people based on their relationships with me and how they conduct themselves.”

There was a video that accompanied the article originally, but it is presently unavailable on YouTube.

Christie has indeed come under fire from the fanatical anti-Muslim wing of the right for what they claim are his too cozy relationships with Muslims. It started, as Christie notes in the speech when he appointed a prominent Muslim-American attorney whom he had much contact with while he was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to a state judgeship. When that happened, a host of conservative bloggers, led by people such as Pamela Gellar, began attacking Christie and accusing him of being soft on terrorism. Several months later, after Sohail Mohammed had been confirmed to the bench, Christie let loose with one of his classic rants in which he said he was tired of dealing with anti-Muslim crazies in his party, and urged Republican to stop pandering to extremists when it came to issues affecting Muslim-Americans. You can imagine what the response to those comments were from the Islamophobic wing of conservatism.

So far there doesn’t seem to be a single conservative blogger writing about Christie’s remarks, but it has caught the attention of a few people on the left. Amy Sullivan, for example, contrasts Christie’s position with that of his party’s presumptive nominee:

I think [Christie's] willingness to call out Islamophobes would be a great reason to make him a running-mate. However, I am not Mitt Romney, who held a private meeting with a group of “the crazies” just last week, according to Politico. Participants included James Dobson and Gary Bauer, who wrote a letter to John Boehner defending Michele Bachmann’s Muslim witch hunt and praised her “good judgment, undeniable courage, and great patriotism” for “bravely demanding answers to matters essential to the safety of the American people and our Armed Forces.”

Also included in the Romney meeting was retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the newly-hired vice president of the Family Research Council and a leader of the anti-Muslim crowd. Boykin, who thinks there should be no mosques allowed in the U.S. and who argues that Muslims are not entitled to First Amendment rights, helped develop a 2010 report assessing the Sharia “threat.” According to Boykin’s report, the Muslim Brotherhood “has succeeded in penetrating our educational, legal and political systems, as well as top levels of government, intelligence, the media, and U.S. military, virtually paralyzing our ability to respond effectively.”

It’s possible that Romney met with this group to tell Boykin and others to cut out their anti-Muslim activities, or to at least keep it down. We don’t know for sure, because the meeting was private. We do know, however, that when asked the next day about Bachmann’s efforts to root out Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in the federal government—a campaign that even John Boehner and John McCain have strongly denounced—Romney took a pass.

The contrast between Christie and Romney, indeed between Christie and pretty much any other nationally known Republican, on this issue is really quite striking. To some extent, of course, it’s because even if Romney and other national Republican leaders agreed with Christie, and I’d bet you that many of them do, they don’t want to say anything for fear of alienating the rapid wing of the party and providing fuel for the Michele Bachmann’s and Allan West’s of the world to whip up the base. You can see that in the fact that, so far, only John McCain and John Boehner have publicly spoken out against Bachmann’s McCarthyist crusade against Huma Abedin. Christie, on the other hand, is clearly one of those people who don’t care what the wacko wing of the party thinks and isn’t afraid to speak out in a manner that would annoy them. I’m pretty sure, or example, that Christie really didn’t care that he got Pamela Gellar upset for appointing a Muslim-American to the bench, and I doubt he cares about whatever reaction make come from her ilk over the fact that he, rightly, called them bigots.

Speaking what you believe to be the truth without regard to the possibility that it will offend the rabble rousers is not something you often see from politicians of any stripe. Usually, they speak in bland words that are poll-tested and they are careful not to offend the base no matter how insane their opinions might be. Whatever else one thinks of Christie, it’s refreshing to see this kind of bluntness and it’s nice to see someone actually call a religious bigot out for what they are. I hope he brings that same kind of candor to the RNC Keynote Address in two and a half weeks.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    No VP for you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Jeremy R says:

    Not a fan of Christie’s generally, but he definitely deserves to be praised for this. I also praised him both in RL and about the internet when he forcefully stood up for Sohail Mohammed shortly after nominating him.

    There’s definitely a sharp contrast between Christie standing up for his guy and how the Romney campaign hid away Richard Grenell.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  3. C. Clavin says:

    yeah…just what the world needs…more arrogant blow-hards.
    it’s a sad commentary on Republicans that one of them gets singled out for not being a racist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  4. legion says:

    @C. Clavin: That’s really the best they can hope for, with the current crowd of dirtbags in charge…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  5. mattb says:

    And this is exactly why:

    (a) Christie will not be Romney’s VP — both in terms of his willingness to take position contra to the base and his willingness to be loud and outspoken. Picking a VP that overshadows the nominee — as we saw last cycle — is a recipe for problems.

    (b) Christie is not a great example of how “deep” the Republican bench is. While this sort of talk arguable garners some respect from the base (it demonstrates he has “spine”), it’s not the type of talk that wins at the national level in Primaries — especially if the GOP is still licking its wounds from a Romney loss.

    All that said, Christie could be a good national chair for the party by 2016 and might even help sway things a bit back towards a public embrace of the Northern mold of republicanism that Mitt Romney is desperately trying to publicly run away from.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This is critical because if this rabid anti-Muslim wave is not stopped it’ll spread from one Congresswoman, one Congressman, a few think tank people, and a few people on the Internet, to perhaps those same people plus one or two others. Maybe three or four others.

    FYI, the plural of anecdote is not data and the shrill cries of a small fringe are not emblematic of the whole large group. I mean, come on, let’s not smoke from a crack pipe.

    Regarding Christie, he didn’t become a great prosecutor by accident. To become a great prosecutor you have to be able to call a spade a spade. Not everybody has that skill set. Nor the cojones. Doesn’t mean, however, they don’t think the same way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  7. I’ll call this related, because it is the Party before Country thing:

    Grunwald has Joe Biden on the record making a striking charge. Biden says that during the transition, a number of Republican Senators privately confided to him that Mitch McConnell had given them the directive that there was to be no cooperation with the new administration — because he had decided that “we can’t let you succeed.”

    Biden, of course, has a history of outsized comments. But two former Republican Senators are confirming the gist of the charges (though both have their reasons for holding a grudge against the GOP). Meanwhile, former Senator George Voinovich also goes on record telling Grunwald that Republican marching orders were to oppose everything the Obama administration proposed.

    If Christie wants to run sometime in the future, against that kind of thing, I’ll listen.

    If he accepts a VP slot in that environment, no.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  8. al-Ameda says:

    When that happened, a host of conservative bloggers, led by people such as Pamela Gellar, began attacking Christie and accusing him of being soft on terrorism. Several months later, after Sohail Mohammed had been confirmed to the bench, Christie let loose with one of his classic rants in which he said he was tired of dealing with anti-Muslim crazies in his party, and urged Republican to stop pandering to extremists when it came to issues affecting Muslim-Americans. You can imagine what the response to those comments were from the Islamophobic wing of conservatism.

    Maybe it’s time for Christie to leave the Republican Party?
    Perhaps he’d be willing to give a “Zell Miller” like speech at the Democratic Convention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. legion says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I’m not getting the sarcasm here, Nick. Are you trying to intimate that there _isn’t_ already an enormous anti-Muslim wave of bigotry throughout the right wing? Did you perhaps sleep through Michelle Bachmann’s pathetic attempt to get a perfectly decent State Department employee tarred-and-feathered last week?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  10. Anderson says:

    To become a great prosecutor you have to be able to call a spade a spade.

    Actually, a prosecutor is likely to get sanctioned for that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. stonetools says:

    Christie just blew any chance at the VP slot. The base will not overlook this.

    That’s all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. grumpy realist says:

    Well, we also see the level of courage Romney has when confronting this sort of stuff: none. Too bad–he could have used this as a Sister Soulijah (sp?) moment and stomped all over rabid bigots like Pam Geller. (why can’t someone point out to her that her commentary is exactly the same sort of stuff that was popular in Germany in the 1930s against her own people and she might want to think about the ethics of what she’s doing. Nattering nitwit.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  13. Mrbill says:

    Doesn’t make any difference , he is also a gun grabber , and an open borders doofus. He won’t be on the ticket. If so then Romney and Repubs dead in the water for years….after Obama will likely be Pres. Hillary, then president Cuomo. Once voters get taste of big Socialism, they will ride the country into Democratic death spiral faster than it already is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1